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Guerrilla Games’ Open World RPG HORIZON: ZERO DAWN Impresses at E3

There’s no denying the fact that we’ve had a crazy E3 this year. I mean, The Last Guardian was re-announced, the Xbox One is getting backwards compatibility, Fallout 4 was unveiled, Shenmue 3 was announced, and heck, it was even revealed that a remake (not a remaster!) of Final Fantasy 7 is on the way; the list goes on. One of the most surprising announcements, however, was Guerilla Games’ upcoming open-world action RPG titled Horizon: Zero Dawn. It’s set in a post-post-apocalyptic world where female protagonist Aloy and her tribe hunt down mechanized creatures. 

Sure, we had an inkling of what to expect from the concept art and information that leaked last year, but seeing the gameplay revealed live and in person during Sony’s E3 2015 press conference was definitely something I’ll always remember. Luckily, Nerdist was also given a more in-depth look at the game during our week at E3 and I’m here to tell you what we learned. But, before that, feast your eyes once again, on the footage Sony showed off during their press conference:

As the trailer above explains, what appears to be a futuristic world filled with sky-high buildings has suffered a cataclysmic event. In the aftermath, nature takes over and the land evolves into a place brimming with mechanical creatures and the bow-wielding nomadic tribes who’re hunting them down and just trying to survive. During Aloy’s monologue, she notes that the legends don’t explain where the ‘old ones’ (a.k.a the futuristic civilization that perished) went, or how the robotic creatures came to rule the lands, but that they’ve been warned that the balance between man and machine cannot last.

On the creatures, the developer explains, “Now these aren’t just a group of antagonists. They’re  not just there for us to give you an opportunity to get in combat with. They have a critical story purpose.” They continued, “They have almost a symbiotic relationship with both the world, some of the other story elements, and potentially even Aloy herself.” This raises obvious questions regarding how these creatures came to be, how they’re powered in this world and why they look the specific way that they do. They teased, “We hear a lot about robot dinosaurs, but that might not be the answer.”

So, while Guerrilla didn’t divulge how and why this world has transformed, or even what it has transformed from, what they’ve said about the game so far, is that we’ll be uncovering the mystery of the new land and attempting to restore a natural balance as we go along. Also, it sounds like Aloy will be exploring the ruins left behind from the time of the old ones to potentially find clues.


The game will also, as the developer revealed, include tactical and strategic combat. Though the machines have taken over the world, and are clearly stronger than the humans, Aloy herself has a level of intelligence that the rest of the world doesn’t understand. Taking that asset in stride, she becomes what they refer to as a “master craftswoman” and uses her tactical and strategic abilities to “even the odds” and outsmart the machines.

For example, we were shown the same area demoed in the trailer but approached in a different manner. Though an open world sandbox, the 2016 title has a quest system in place. They explained that the footage shown off during the press conference actually showed a quest that Aloy was on. She’s on a mission to find a particular resource, which after studying the herd for a while, she knows is in the canisters on the back of the machines referred to as Grazers.

Now instead of merely sneaking up to the herd and taking them out one by one as they scatter, they showed that Aloy can also stealthily set up a couple of traps and force the grazers towards it to easily collect the cannisters. This just goes to show how closely she’s been studying the machines and how tactical the gameplay is going to be. She is aware that the animals are skittish, so she uses that knowledge to her advantage.

Horizon Zero Dawn Scouts

Also, in an attempt to stay in the heat of the battle, you’ll be able to craft ammo on the go. That means that if you run out of arrows–which so far includes the likes of exploding, electric, and armor piercing–during a fight, crafting new ones is as easy as pulling up the quick craft menu.

We also learned a bit more about the massive Thunderjaw which was shown off in the video. Once it appears, they paused and panned out to show the size differential between Aloy and her foe. The beast is 80 feet long, 33 ft high, 550,000 polygons and has 271 separate animations including more than 60 hit reactions and 67 visual effects. What’s even more impressive is that it has over 93 separate hit point plates and destructible elements that are found across the entirety of the beast.

Also, as you probably already noticed, there is what appears to be soft tissue or muscle exposed on the beast. Much like an armored enemy, shooting these special areas will allow you to do 3x the amount of damage. Additionally, there are two high value damage areas on the Thunderjaw including the power core which is shielded and another at its head called the A.I. Core.

Horizon Zero Dawn Aiming_at_Thunderjaw

They dive even deeper showing that the beast’s health bar and the fact that it has spears sticking out of it, indicates that it has already been in a battle. So instead of entering a boss battle with a baddie with full health, you’ll be able to tackle the creature and finish the job another tribe already started. This just goes to show how much detail, depth, and tactical gameplay they’ve added to the game. The scale of the game is incredibly impressive.

All in all, we were very impressed with our first look at Horizon: Zero Dawn. It’s refreshing to see Guerrilla Games take the bold leap from the world of first person shooters to an open world action RPG. The mystery surrounding the post post apocalyptic setting and the machines that reign supreme are different than anything we’ve seen before, and we couldn’t be more excited to hear more. In the meantime, check out the awesome gallery of screenshots at the bottom of the page for a closer look at the beautiful game.

Are you excited to hear more about Horizon: Zero Dawn? What was your favorite announcement from E3 2015? Let us know in the comments below.


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